Sunday, December 30, 2007
As we come to the close of 2007 and think about the coming of 2008, inevitably we begin to think about New Year's Resolutions. These are popular with so many, because they challenge us to be even better than we were the year before. But the question that is always there is: What will my resolutions be? You can always go with the popular ones like diet, exercise, go to church more, spend more time with family, etc..
Here is a twist on the whole New Year's Resolution; become more of who God created you to be. And to do this, we can think about Proverbs 6:16-19, which says, "There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers." There are seven things that we are prone to do: be prideful, lie, hurt others, be deceitful, get ourselves into trouble, be a false witness against another, and stir up dissension.
As you look over this list, you might not be one who breaks them all, but to some degree or another, they exist in our lives. What if we sought to do better in these 7 areas in 2008? Not only would our life be better, but all those around us would be better off as well. So which are the areas where you struggle the most? Pride? Being deceitful? Making decisions that get you into trouble? What can you do to improve in that area? I challenge myself and you to pick at least one, and let's do better in 2008. May God bless us in our endeavor.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
One of the aspects of Christmas is that of opening gifts. It might be a little odd that we get to open gifts on somebody else’s birthday (Jesus'), but this receiving of gifts is really an offshoot of the whole spirit of giving. As we give, we also receive, and thus we get to open gifts! What is it that you are wanting this Christmas? If you are like me, you get to a certain age where you really don’t need anything anymore. But what would you want if you knew the cost didn’t matter? Some might say a new car, while others might say better health. Hey, if there is no limitation, what about a jet or a trip to space? But there is a perfect gift that we can receive, and the perfect gift that can be given.
The perfect gift is more than something material. And while health for ourselves and our family would be nice, and world peace would be great, those still aren’t what would make the perfect gift….There is a Christmas card, that we received this year, that says it well, “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; if our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; if our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; if our greatest need had been pleasure, god would have sent us an entertainer; but our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a savior.”
Our greatest need is to have our sins forgiven, and for that we need a savior. This is what Christmas is all about; God coming into this world, in the form of a baby, to live among us, and show us how to live and to love. But even more, this baby, Jesus Christ, would grow up and become our savior, so that we could be forgiven and saved from our sins. Jesus said this as well in John 8:24, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”
Everybody is going to die physically, but what Jesus is talking about is dying spiritually. When we do not have Jesus as our Savior, we will go through a spiritual death. What is a spiritual death? Spiritual death is having our spirit eternally separated from God. Romans 6:23 says, “For the penalty of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”THIS IS A FREE GIFT TO US. IT IS THE PERFECT GIFT FOR US. GOD SAYS, “HERE IT IS; THIS IS FOR YOU!” Will you receive it?
But along with understanding what the perfect gift is for us to receive, we need to also know what is the perfect gift to give. It is the gift of helping people understand the Christmas story. EXAMPLE- Barna is a group that takes poll of different religious questions. Just recently they did a sample poll of over 1000 people. One of the questions they asked was whether or not people believed in the virgin birth (that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit). In response, 66% of upscale adults, 53 % of those who don’t go to church, and 60% of those who are liberal on political and social issues said that they believed in the virgin birth. However, only 15% of those who are atheist or agnostic said they believed. NOW, even though there is a majority in many of the categories, there are still a lot of people who don’t believe.
Because there are many who don’t believe, it will take someone like you and me to help them know, understand, and believe. They need to understand that the most perfect gift that they can receive is forgiveness from their sins from Jesus, their savior. There is no greater gift than eternal life. But they won’t have it until they receive it.
Let us give thanks to God for the perfect gift He gives to us, and let us remember this gift on Christmas Day as we talk about Christmas with our families. Share the true meaning of Christmas!
Sunday, December 16, 2007
FEAR. It is a word that catches our attention. In fact, when someone is afraid of something, it is usually termed a phobia. The list of phobias is quite long; from agoraphobia (fear of open spaces or crowds), to necrophobia (fear of death or dead things), to xenophobia (fear of strangers or foreigners). According to the American Psychiatric Association, a phobia is an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation. In most cases, the phobia involves a sense of endangerment or a fear of harm.
So a phobia is a fear that has become irrational. We have imagined that this person, or situation, or object can cause us harm or endangerment. And yet, fear itself is not irrational. For example, fear can keep us from just walking up to a snake that could indeed cause us harm; fear could keep us from acting out in a way that is harmful; fear could keep us from getting involved in a relationship that could be hurtful.
Often times, if we choose to face our fear, we find that we are no longer afraid. But even more, we have a place to go to calm our fears, and that place is God. If you were to study the Bible at all, you would see that there is a God who is personal, loving, and present. This God wants us to know that we don't have to fear. As Isaiah 35:4 says to those with fearful hearts: "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." Also, Isaiah 41:10, " So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
What causes you to fear? It is important to note whether or not these fears are rational, or irrational. But either way, if you give them to the Lord, the Lord will help you to overcome them, and help you to turn them into opportunities for growth and blessing.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
During the Christmas season, it seems that people are all the more willing to help others. People want to give a little extra money to someone who is hungry, or buy gifts for a family that is struggling. But shouldn’t this attitude of giving be one that exists throughout the year? Shouldn’t people have this ongoing desire to help?
One thing that seems to happen at Christmas, is the opportunities to help are more pronounced. During the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, organizations like Salvation Army and Rescue Mission do extra mailings, and express a need for extra help. So people tend to be more aware of the need at the holiday time.
But the truth is, the need is always there. There are always people who are struggling; always people who are homeless; always people who can’t pay a bill or buy a meal. Our church is currently partnering with WomenShelter of Long Beach (an organization that helps those who are suffering from domestic violence). There is a great need during Christmas. But this need will continue all the more after Christmas. We are searching for ways to be able to partner and help on a long term basis.
Jesus told us in Matthew 25:35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'” After saying this, the people were confused how they had done this. And then Jesus says to them in Matthew 25:40- “"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” We need to help others, because it is what God would have us to do. When we choose to not help, we give in to our selfish desires, and withdraw from the world in which God has placed us; we become disconnected from our surroundings.Let us take this attitude of giving, that is prevalent at Christmas, and keep it with us throughout the year. Tell me what you think (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sunday, December 09, 2007
The other day I was reading my Bible, and came across John 11:35, which says: "Jesus wept." This verse refers to Jesus finding out that Lazarus was dead, and with this news He weeps. What a great sign of the emotions of God. Remember, that Jesus is God in the flesh; the likeness of God to us. As John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only..."
As God's likeness, we see that God has emotions. This shouldn't surprise us, since we are made in the image of God. But it is wonderful to know that God has emotions, because it shows us that God is personal. God does care about what happens to us, His children. God is not just some impersonal force or deity.
What might this mean for you and me? It means that when we are feeling down, God wants to be there to help build us up. It means that when we are excited, God is jumping for excitement with us. When we are overwhelmed with grief, God is there crying as well. It means that we are never alone in what we feel!
I hope that you try to really process this. God has not left us on our own. God will never abandon us. In fact, as we make our way towards Christmas, we should remember that God took on flesh, in the form of a baby, Jesus Christ, to come and live with us, AND die for us. Christmas is really about God caring about what we feel, and who we are, and what we do.
SO, the next time you feel an emotion, remember that God is right there with you! Tell me what you think (email@example.com).
Thursday, December 06, 2007
From the reports that I've heard, this movie is a fun and adventurous tale. Starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig and backed by New Line Cinema, the movie is well done and will be entertaining. But it is interesting that they are seeking to downplay the atheistic messages that come through in the book. Because it is seen as a children's movie (much in the vein of "The Chronicles of Narnia), children will no doubt be interested to read the books. This is not a good thing, since Pullman promotes such anti-God views.
Christianity Today says this in their review (for the full review see http://www.christianitytoday.com/movies/). "Pullman has painted a picture of the church—represented by "The Magisterium" in his stories—that basically reflects only those ways in which the church has abused power. And he has used that selective reflection as an excuse to write off Christianity as a whole... Pullman points to bad people as a way of saying that the faith is wrong. For examples of religious folk, he illustrates people who abuse power. That's not God. And Christ would frown on the persecution carried out by The Magisterium."
I personally will not be taking my kids (8 and 11) to see the movie, nor will I let them read the books. Each person will decide if they want to see the movie (or read the books), and each parent will have to reflect on whether or not it will be beneficial to expose their children to this. If asked for my opinion, I will discourage people to see it. However, if you do go to see the movie, I hope that you do so with Jesus Christ in tow, so that you might allow your thoughts to interact with what the truth of Scripture says.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Books are wonderful to stimulate our thinking, and challenge us in life. I have been encouraged by a book titled “The Externally Focused Church,” by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson. This book is about challenging churches to go beyond their four walls, and seek to confront and cooperate with their communities. It is about partnering with other organizations that are doing a good work, so that they can do an even better work. It is about taking our faith, and making it practical.
On page 216 of the book, the authors say this: “In this book we’ve described some of the ways God is moving the church beyond the four walls of the building and into the community. And we’ve described some of the results: people coming to faith, lives are being changed, and Christians are growing. But we really believe that the best years for the church are still ahead, and the best ideas have yet to be invented. The challenges and opportunities are too massive to rely on old, tired methodologies.”
Churches are just getting to the place where they realize they don't have to do everything by themselves; there are some things that will happen better if we work together and work as a team for the kingdom of God. This is especially true for smaller churches who don't have a great amount of money or resources. But it will also be very beneficial if big churches choose to partner with smaller churches. This becomes a mission for the bigger church, and allows smaller churches to be connected with ministry they couldn't do on their own.
As Rusaw and Swanson say: "To create a different future is going to take leaders with the vision to see, the passion to feel, and the courage to do. These leaders must keep pressing forward despite inevitable squalls, adjusting the rudder and the sail as they go." This journey is not meant to be one we walk alone. God calls us to be partners in the ministry to people around us. This should happen with churches partnering with other churches, and churches partnering with other organizations. If we do this, God will do great things! Tell me what you think.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
A couple of weeks ago I was reading the commentary by Pamela Hale-Burns in the Saturday Long Beach Press Telegram religion page. She was talking about how she had been criticized for her commentary's on celebrities not being good role models for our children, and for speaking out against how some middle school's were providing birth control for girls without their parents knowledge.
She said: "Well, in the midst of the calls and the e-mails there were two that stood out that I felt deserved a response.... In regards to the celebrities, I was told by a fellow Christian that I shouldn't criticize the world and just love them. I didn't criticize anyone...I encouraged parents to be the example of a good role model for their children so they wouldn't have to look up to these celebrities... Another reader says that when it comes to children and birth control I should take my head out of the sand...Today's children are going to have sex regardless of how they are raised... Pamela Hale-Burns then says: 'Let's stop telling our children that they are going to fail no matter what and encourage them that it can be done. Let them know they can succeed by making right choices...My head is out of the sand and my ears are cleaned out and what I'm hearing and seeing is the world is giving up on our kids...'"
As I read this article, I was saying "amen" to what Pamela Hale-Burns was saying. Unfortunately, people no longer want to speak out, because they are afraid of being attacked by those who don't want to abide by how God calls us to live. God doesn't want us to give birth control to our teenagers; God doesn't want our kids to look to celebrities as their role models! God wants parents to be parents, and to give their kids high morals and standards. God wants us to encouraging each other to raise our kids right. As Hebrews 10:24 says, "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."
I want to challenge anyone who reads this to be willing to be bolder, and to speak up for who God is, and for how God wants us to live, especially when it comes to our children!
Tell me what you think. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sunday, November 25, 2007
There is indeed “one thing” in our lives that should be most important; one thing that brings perspective to our lives; one core desire of the soul. And the sad truth is that most people never discover their “one thing.” People desperately long to find it, but they’re not sure where to look. God has programmed us with this “one thing” into our lives like computer software. The apostle Paul talks about it like this in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This good work is that most essential part of you.
The easiest way to discover this one thing is to see what you are most passionate about. What is it that stirs your soul? What is it that energizes you? What makes you tick?
This "one thing" is the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things. I can’t tell you what your “one thing” is. You have to discover that for yourself. But I can tell you that if you take the time to take stock of your life, and begin to move your faith into action, and start living out your passions, then you will find where you need to be, and will have a significant and meaningful life.
Everyone has a passion in their soul. It may be helping kids. It may be making things for others. It may be teaching. But we all have "one thing" that we are created to do. I encourage you, if you haven't discovered it already, to begin to search out what is that "one thing" you need to pursue. If you could do anything, and know you would succeed, and that you had available to you everything you needed, what would you do?
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Religious Philosopher Blaise Pascal once said: “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room…What people want is not the easy peaceful life that allows us to think of our unhappy condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the burdens of office, but the agitation that takes our mind off it and diverts us. That is why we prefer the hunt to the capture. That is why men are so fond of hustle and bustle; that is why prison is such a fearful punishment; that is why the pleasures of solitude are so incomprehensible. I believe that what Pascal is saying here is that we want to be busy, because when we are busy we don’t have to think about our lives; we don’t have to think about how we are unhappy; we don’t have to stop and reflect upon how we are not accomplishing much with our lives.
Soren Kierkegaard said: “The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do…to find the idea for which I can live and die.” We need to have regular times in our lives when we are quiet, and at peace, so that we can try to seek out what God wishes us to do. It is interesting that at the Harvard Business School, there is a workshop called “Age of Options.” This workshop is designed to ensure participants “that their next career phase is fulfilling” and has purpose. People are seeking for purpose in their lives, but the only real place to find purpose is to know God through Jesus Christ, and to do what God has created you to do. And to do this, you need to ask questions like: What is my passion? Where do I belong? What do I believe? What will I do with what I believe? What are my values?
The first step is to “make peace” with our past. Making peace is about learning how to get over the regrets of our past. We all have things that we have done in the past that we are not happy about; that we are not proud of. But we can’t dwell on the past. Since we can’t go back and undo past mistakes, the best thing we can do is to give the past to God, and know that God can use our past to help our present and future to be meaningful.
The next step is to "take time." Too often we don't take enough time on the things that are really important. One area where we need to “take time” is to get away from the crowd so we can regularly reflect on what is important in our lives. We can’t make time for the important things if we don’t know what the important things are.
Next we need to "be honest." In regards to moving forward into the life God has for you, you have to seek what is real. So to move forward, you have to learn who the “real you” is. This is also where a trusted friend can be invaluable. They will help us to discover our genuine self.
Last, is to "have faith." Our faith is important to us and will help us to have the strength we need to trust God as we move forward. Our faith also is what leads us to answer the important question, “What will I do about what I believe?” Letting our faith guide us will help us to listen better, and will help us to have a filter through which we can make the right decisions for our lives.
This idea of taking stock is what the psalmist was doing in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Tell me what you think (email@example.com).
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Do you believe that your life is your own, or do you believe that it is a gift from God? How we answer this question will determine how we receive the attributes of God that God has for us. Many people believe that (and live like) their lives are their own. They might say that they believe in God, but they don’t give ownership of their lives to God. We are told by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
It is clear in the Bible that God has given us life, and by Jesus dying on the cross has bought back our lives. So the challenge for us is whether or not we can give up ownership, and accept God as the merciful, gracious, faithful, sovereign God over our lives.
In life, we have many encounters with others that cause us to be hurt, or angry, or disillusioned. In essence, it creates a hole in our hearts. For some, the wound of the heart has been there a long time. For others, it might be a new wound. There are many things that can cause us hurt.Maybe a friend borrowed money, and hasn’t returned it, but has since purchased new things. And you are angry. Or, maybe you told a friend a secret, and that friend told someone else. And you are angry. Or, maybe there was a gathering of friends, and you weren’t invited. And you are angry. Maybe a child you have raised doesn’t acknowledge you or love you, as they should. And you are hurt.
Have you ever experienced any of these emotions? I’m sure we all have. The problem is, that if we let resentment gain life, it turns from hurt to hate. It begins to take on a life of its own, until it consumes you. But resentment can never have a positive outcome. Resentment will lead you down a dark path.
Bitterness can only be removed in one way, and God gives us an example of how this can happen: it comes through forgiveness and showing mercy. As we are told in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” The mercy we receive is in direct proportion with the mercy we give.
What if you had to list all the times you were selfish? What if you had to list all the times you hurt another? The point is, that your list of wrongs would be far greater than the list of things you have done for God.
EX. There is a story of a man who died and found himself at the gates of heaven. He was told that he would be asked some questions, and that he would receive a certain amount of points for each answer. Then he was told that he would need 100 points at the end of the exam to earn his way into heaven. So the questions began:
“What have you done with the life God gave you?” The man stammered for a moment, “Well….I…” Then he thought of something, “I was an elder in my church.” “Good,” said the angel, “that is worth 1 point.” The angel continued, “How have you served others?” The man thought, and then smiled as he remembered some of what he had done: “I volunteered at the Rescue Mission once, and I helped to build a home with Habitat for Humanity. Then there was the time when I volunteered in the youth program for a year.” “Very good,” the angel replied. “That will be worth another point.” ……. At this the man was surprised, and responded: “At this rate, I’ll never be able to get into heaven.” ….The angel looked at the man for a moment, and then said: “That is exactly right. I’m afraid to tell you that you will never be able to get into heaven on your own. However, the good news is that all who believe in Jesus Christ, will receive eternal life.” The man’s expression changed as he shouted out: “Oh, I do believe; I do believe.” And the angel smiled and said, “I know you do. Your name is written in the book of life. Come, enter into heaven for all eternity!”We understand God to be a God of mercy. We ask God for mercy on Sunday, but on Monday we cry out for justice against another. When we do not know how to give mercy, then we will not know how to receive mercy. God, through Christ, will give us mercy. But we must humble our hearts to find it. God is merciful in that He does not count our sins against us when we put our trust in Jesus Christ.
How has God been merciful to you? How do you need to better receive God's mercy?
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The reality of life, is that there are crises that come about. Often times these crises come when we find out about someone who is close to us being sick, or dying. I remember a little over 3 years ago I got a phone call about my dad. My dad had just gone to see my sister in Arizona. My dad’s health wasn’t great, but he seemed to be doing pretty well. It turns out that the trip did a number on his heart. This wasn’t completely a surprise, since I knew my dad had congestive heart failure, but it is never easy to hear this kind of bad news. My dad wasn’t feeling well, he called 911, and when the ambulance got there, they had to re-start his heart, and then put him on a temporary ventilator. Once at the hospital, he was taken to the ICU and put on a ventilator there. I got the call from my brother telling me all of this. The next day I was at the hospital. My dad was alert, but couldn’t talk. He was like this for the next 3 weeks, as my brother and I traded off going out to Hemet to see him. They couldn’t seem to get him off the ventilator. Whenever they tried, his heart became erratic, so they would put him back on. Then one morning I got the call from my brother saying that my dad’s blood pressure was 45 over 20, and they didn’t think that he was going to live much longer. So my brother went up to the hospital, had my dad taken off the ventilator, and stayed the night until he passed away the next day, at 12:45 p.m.
This is not something that you can reason away. This is only something that you can trust your way out of. In many ways it is incomprehensible. There is no way to understand it apart from an eternal perspective. Albert Einstein once said: “What is incomprehensible is beyond the realm of science. It is in the realm of God. It is in times like these that we need to lean on God. As Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Here on earth we are pilgrims, not in control. We are stewards, not owners. We are soldiers, without any security. If Jesus is most important to us, then we understand that we are not in control of our own lives, much less the lives of those whom we love.
George Bernard Shaw once said: “I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.” We can overcome the crises in our lives and be a splendid torch, burning brightly, if we so choose. We do this by letting Jesus be number one in our lives, leading us to live not out of driven-ness, but by following our calling. When we do this, we let the strategic plan of our lives be guided by Jesus, and we allow ourselves to trust in the Lord in all things. By doing this, we will have significance and meaning in our lives.
What do you need to do to let yourself LEAN more on God so that He can help you to live the life He has called you to live? I pray that you would start "leaning" on God this day.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Life is full of change. In times of change, it is important to have a good strategic plan. When we seek to have a strategic plan for our lives, we are seeking to answer questions like: What should I do? How can I be most useful? Where should I invest my time, talents, and money? What are the values that give my life purpose? And, where am I going, and how do I get there?
Every plan has a mainspring. To discover the “mainspring” in our plan we have to ask ourselves another question; the question is this: “What is most important to me?” That is a fundamental question. We come up with answers like family, work, Jesus, health. But the problem is, that for most people, while Jesus is stated in this list, Jesus isn’t really most important. Only when Jesus is most important can we really fit all the other important aspects of life into the equation! That is why Jesus said, in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
With this in mind, it is important to understand that your plan will probably not change your life drastically. You probably won't be asked by God to leave your family and live in a monastery. You probably won’t even be asked to leave where you live and become a missionary. But it will require of you to begin to give over your life to God, and be more faithful with what you have been given.
As you look at your life, is Jesus the most important? If not, then you will struggle to deal with the change that comes to your life. If not, then you will find it difficult to be significant, because you will be lost in trying to be a success. If not, then you will find yourself pulled toward serving things other than God. I challenge you to give yourself over to Christ today, and let Christ be most important.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
But this is true in the area of my spiritual life as well. We cannot go through life doing the same things, and living the same way from year to year. As life and circumstances change, so must our focus. This shifting of our focus will help us to be successful in the way God desires of us; it will help us to overcome the panic of trying to be successful. We live in a world that likes to dwell on being successful. The problem with this is determining what kind of success you want. Many people will say that to be successful, you need to set goals. As you achieve your goals, you will be a success. In many people’s eyes, being successful means being married, having good, stable, healthy kids, having a couple of cars, a house, a good job, and good health. If you are lacking in this criteria, then you will not be seen as a success.
And yet, let’s say that you even do achieve all of this. The question still comes: How much is enough? And many in the world would answer: There never can be enough. And when we hear this answer, we get what is called “Success Panic.” Success panic is the feeling that you can never have enough, and you can never achieve all that you need. Success panic is not ever being able to be satisfied with what you have and what you have achieved. Success panic is not expected; it usually comes after you have reached a goal, and then you wonder: What is next?
The journey getting to our goal is often more exciting and rewarding than actually arriving. This is where the “Success Panic” comes in, because you realize that reaching your goal hasn’t fulfilled you the way you thought it would, and you panic to wonder what is next in your life. At this point, you must decide whether you will: 1. Move the finish line forward, and continue doing what you are doing. 2. Look at new possibilities and new goals. 3. Wonder whether you have really been successful and question if it was worth all the effort.
(Taken from the book "Half Time: Changing Your Game Plan From Success To Significance," by Bob Buford)
Sunday, November 04, 2007
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are told, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" In Christ, we can be transformed from the old sinful ways, to the new Christ loving, Christ following ways.
Some people know the exact moment of their conversion; of that time when they accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Do you? I don’t remember the exact moment, but I do remember that it was in January, 1977. I had gotten one of these little personal Bibles in my locker. It has an assortment of verses about comfort, assurance, and salvation. At the end of the little booklet is a prayer to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I remember kneeling down by my bed, praying the prayer, and the signing my name to it! But many of you might not have had this kind of an experience. Maybe you didn’t have an earth shattering conversion. Maybe yours was a gentle flow of growing up believing, and slowly and steadily growing in your faith and commitment.
Psalm 37:4 tells us, "Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." In the end, it really isn't about your desires, it is about desiring what God desires you to desire. That is why Jesus could tell us that God would give us whatever we ask, because when we delight in the Lord, we desire what God desires.
As you think about your life, where do you need to be transformed? Maybe you don't even know Christ. That would be a good place to start. If you do know Christ, maybe you need to delight yourself more in Him. If you do, you will discover new and wonderful things!
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Czech writer and dramatist Vaclav Havel once said: “The real test of a man is not when he plays the role that he wants for himself, but when he plays the role destiny has for him.” As I think about the picture of the sunset to the right, I think about how each day that we are given to live, is a blessing from God. Each day that we have is a gift to do something significant with our lives. Too often we become selfish and think we know what is best for us, but more often than not our selfishness does not lead us to the role, the destiny that God has for us.
You might know what you believe, but do you know how to incorporate what you believe into your life? What will you do with what you believe? God has a destiny for you, but this destiny requires that you utilize your faith in all aspects of your life. This is how Jesus could talk about coming to this earth so that His followers might have abundant life.
So we need to ask ourselves some important questions: Am I listening to God's still small voice? Is my work the center of my life and identity? Do I have an eternal perspective as a prism through which I view my life? What do I want to be remembered for? Is my life packed with significance? As we answer these questions, it should lead us to want to do more with the faith that we have.
So, if you think of life as a baseball diamond, First Base is the commitment to faith and believing what Jesus says is true; Second Base is the shift from being a ‘hearer of the word’ to being a ‘doer of the word’: it is growing in spiritual maturity that shows itself in a loving behavior; Third Base is the commitment to living out the Christian faith in Ministry. This is about doing concrete work, either in a church or a parachurch setting; Home base is the commitment to God’s mission in the world. It is being a Kingdom builder by finding the specifically designed mission that God has for us. George Gallup Jr. talks about how 84% of Americans declare themselves to be Christians. The problem is that most are stuck between first and second base not living out their Christian faith.
In 1 Kings 19:9-12, we read about how God was going to come to Elijah. Elijah expected God to come in a dramatic way, but God was not in the powerful wind, the earthquake that shook the mountains, or the great fire. When God came to Elijah, it was in a gentle whisper. We need to know that God comes to us and speaks His message to us of how we are to be significant, but we must slow down so that we can hear God's whisper. God's whisper will lead us to do things that are significant. But we must have the desire to listen, and then to act.
George Bernard Shaw once said: “This is the true joy in life—the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die…”
In my next blog I will talk more about how we can use ourselves in significant ways.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Being a success is a drive for many people. That is why so many "success" books are written each year, and why they are on the topsellers lists all the time. People are driven to be successful. The challenge is to know what constitutes success. For most people, you can never have enough, or get far enough. And so they never reach the finish line.
In the month of October, I preached a sermon series using themes from Bob Buford's book "From Success to Significance." In this book, management Expert Peter Drucker says that, "Success does not necessarily mean a substantial fortune or even great worldly success. But it does mean something that those in earlier times simply did not know; achievement...." Over my next few blogs, I want to talk about why it is more important to seek to be significant, than successful.
Saint Augustine said that asking yourself the question of your own legacy— (What do I wish to be remembered for?) —is the beginning of adulthood. In thinking about our epitaph we identify ourselves as someone with a purpose and a passion. As I think about my epitaph, I think I would like it to say: 'Well done, good and faithful servant of the Lord.' I want to be remembered for being a person who was loving, and who lived my life in service to God, trying to make a difference with who I am and what I do. How about you?
If you know anything about the parable of the sower, you know that it is about recognizing that we have been given many things from God, and receiving what we have been given, and then allowing that to become fruitful in our lives. To be significant in this way means that we don’t allow the worries of the world to make us depressed or anxious; it means that we don’t allow ourselves to be selfish, causing us to be shallow; it means that we don’t let the heartache of life cause us to be bitter and hard and choke off God from working in our lives. We need to dare to believe that we can achieve great things with our lives, and that ultimately we can have a great impact on this world.
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT BEING SUCCESSFUL OR SIGNIFICANT (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
My last blog I left off talking about how Brother Lawrence was overwhelmed by God's blessings. Brother Lawrence was so humbled by these gifts from God, that he would pray: "It is too much, O Lord! It is too much for me. Give, if it please Thee, these kinds of favors and consolations to sinners and to the people who do not know Thee, in order to attract them to Thy service..." This is a wonderful prayer, in that Brother Lawrence believes that by experiencing the favor of God in their lives, sinners will come to want to know Jesus. It is like what the apostle John said in John 20:30-31, "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John wanted the people to know about Jesus' miracles, but many people have experienced His miracles and then believed.
Brother Lawrence took the 2 great commands of Jesus seriously: love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Because of this, Brother Lawrence regarded those around him with the same affection he felt for the Lord. He believed it also exemplified what Jesus said, that what we do to the least of the brethren, we do to Him. So this led him to be determined to serve others. "He assisted the poor in their needs, as much as was in his power." With this in mind, we should be challenged to find ways to serve others (especially the poor and the outcast).
"Death did not frighten Brother Lawrence at all. On his deathbed, he displayed marks of a stability, a resignation, and a joy that were quite extraordinary...If he had loved God deeply during his life, he did not love Him any less at death." How about you? Do you fear death? Do you know that You will be with God in heaven when You die? You can be as assured as Brother Lawrence was. We are told in 1 John 5:12, "Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life."
On February 12th, 1691, Brother Lawrence died at 80 years of age. At the end of the book it says (p. 94), "It is easy to conclude that his death was precious in the sight of the Lord, that it was very quickly followed by his reward, that he is now enjoying glory; and that his faith has been rewarded by clear vision, his hopes by possession, and his budding charity by a consummate love." I hope that I live my life to even half the degree of service Brother Lawrence did, and look forward to my time to be with God. I challenge you to do the same, so that you might enjoy a fulfilled life like Brother Lawrence!
Sunday, October 21, 2007
When you hear the word "fearlessness," what do you think of? I think of being able to overcome our fears. For example, I have a fear of heights, and so when I am able to do something that involves heights, I am being fearless.
But fearlessness has to do with how we live our every day lives as well. Many people called Brother Lawrence "fearless," because he was able to elevate himself above all that was not God. "He coveted nothing; nothing astonished him; he feared nothing. This stability of his soul came from the same source as all his other virtues. He had an exalted concept of God which made him think of Him as sovereign Justice and infinite Goodness. He was confident that God would not deceive him and that He would do him only good..."
Now this is a challenge for us, because we get so locked into this world, that we get caught up in the petty concerns and worries of life. We have difficulty raising ourselves above this notion that we don't have to covet or own anything to be happy. Our happiness can rest in God alone; the God who provides for us all that we need. We don't seek God and love God because of the benefits that He gives to us. We seek God and love God because God is our creator, and the One in whom we find our being and purpose.
Another aspect of Brother Lawrence's life that challenges us is the fact that he sought to act without any self-interest. This is a great challenge, because we have difficulty living our lives without being selfish. We are given this challenge by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:3-4, "3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Can we live our lives without seeking a reward? Can we be fearless by living our lives differently than those who don't know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord?
Thursday, October 18, 2007
heaven, not concerned with things on earth. His views were not limited by time, because he contemplated nothing but the Eternal One and had become eternal like Him." Like Brother Lawrence, it is important for us to have this same understanding of our citizenship. If we think we are really citizens of this world, then we will be tied to this world in unhealthy ways. As Jesus told us in John 15:19- "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world..."
I have seen so many people get discouraged and depressed by their life. Often times it is because they don't have the right perspective. They believe that what the world offers to them is what is most important; is what living is about. But the truth doesn't rest in the things of this world. As Brother Lawrence says: "Faith makes me regard God as sovereign truth; hope makes me think of Him as complete happiness; and love causes me to conceive Him as the most perfect of all beings, as perfection itself."
With the right perspective, we don't have to seek after success. With the right perspective, we understand that it isn't about success, but about doing something meaningful and purposeful with our lives. Brother Lawrence was able to understand this because "everything was the same to him--every place, every job. The good brother found God everywhere..." And Brother Lawrence didn't have to seek God out. His only means of going to God was "to do everything for the love of Him."
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Faith, for many is difficult, because they can't see where they are going. We want to be in control, and faith causes us to have to trust. And yet, for Brother Lawrence, he saw "faith" as his greatest instructor. "It was faith that gave him an unspeakably high esteem for Jesus Christ, the Son of God Who resides as King....This same faith gave him a profound respect and love for the Word of God."
Faith is what leads us into the unknown world of God, and yet this same faith is the only way that we can know the mysteries of God (see Colossians 1:25-26). As Brother Lawrence just said, faith gives us high esteem for Jesus, because in Jesus we see both who God is and who God wants us to become.
"Faith gave Brother Lawrence a firm hope in God's goodness, confidence in His providence, and the ability to completely abandon himself into God's hands." I read these words, and I think that these can be scary words. The thought of abandoning ourselves to anyone can cause us concern. And yet, if anyone can be trusted with our lives, it is our creator. If we can indeed abandon ourselves, then we can be more like what Brother Lawrence says: "He never worried about what would become of him; rather, he threw himself into the arms of infinite mercy...This is why he said that the greatest glory one can give to God is to entirely mistrust one's own strength, relying completely on God's protection."
How often do we mistrust our own strength, only to find out we aren't able to make it on our own? It is interesting to see how we think we can be stronger and more capable than God, the creator and redeemer of our soul. We think we can come up with our own plan. But how can we plan for that which we do not know? "Brother Lawrence saw nothing but the plan of God in everything that happened to him." To be this way brings great freedom!
There is no peace found in the world apart from God. But with God, there can be great peace. Brother Lawrence lived this truth. "Even when told of some great evil in the world, He would simply raise his heart to God, trusting that He would work it to the good of the general order."
The challenge for us then become be able to let God work out the good for our lives. Tell me what you think. (email@example.com)
Thursday, October 11, 2007
In life, we love rewards. In fact, most everything we do is because we believe we will receive some kind of reward for it. It could be the reward of money, or prestige, or acceptance. But we need to learn how to live our lives without this kind of thinking. Our motivation should be to serve God and seek to please God.
In part 3 of the life of Brother Lawrence, we see that as he was able to "practice the presence" of God in his life, it caused him to have a "gentle disposition, complete honesty, and the most charitable heart in the world...it won him the esteem and the good will of everyone who saw him." (p. 84) How interesting to see that a man that didn't seek the esteem of others, got it because of his humility and charity.
This attitude also led Brother Lawrence to do things in private, not wanting to draw attention to himself. He was motivated to live and work not for worldly reward, but simply for the reward of knowing he was doing what God expected him to do. This is a great example and challenge to us, to learn how to first know what God expects of us, and then do it without fanfare or payment.
Through this process of being aware of God's presence, Brother Lawrence became one who people loved to listen to. "The sweetness that accompanied his words so inspired those who listened that they came away penetrated with the love of God, burning with the desire to put the great truths he had just taught them into practice" (p. 85).
Even though he was reluctant to speak, there were times when he was asked to share his thoughts. Through this, he impressed many. "An illustrious bishop of France, who had had several interviews with him, said that God spoke directly to Brother Lawrence, revealing His divine mysteries to him because of the greatness and the purity of his love for Him" (p. 86).
But this kind of knowledge and understanding of God's mysteries are available to us all. As Brother Lawrence, himself said: "God alone is capable of making Himself known as He really is; we search in reasoning and in the sciences, as in a poor copy, for what we neglect to see in an excellent original. God Himself paints Himself in the depths of our soul" (p. 87).
Let us take the time, starting today, to seek God out, and let God share His mysteries and revelation with us. Tell me what you think (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Monday, October 08, 2007
In my last blog I began a series on the life of Brother Lawrence, a man who "struggled with the corruption of the world and man's instability and infidelity, who because of this decided to make a firm resolution to walk in the path of Jesus Christ." At one point, he decided to get away to seek God, and so he retired to the desert. But he determined that such a solitary life was not good, especially for a young Christian like himself, and so he joined a Christian brotherhood, where he became a lay brother of the Carmelite Order and took on the name Brother Lawrence.
From the earliest time as a part of this Order, Brother Lawrence held prayer in particular importance. No matter how much work he had to do, he never cut his prayer time short. Even when he was assigned the humblest of duties, he never complained. This helped him to understand the importance of serving God in whatever he was called to do.
But like you and me, Brother Lawrence was not without struggle. As Brother Lawrence attempted to move into a more spiritual life, memories of the sins of his past life engulfed him, and he began to judge himself and doubt his salvation. During this dark and bitter time, Brother Lawrence did not even find comfort in his times of prayer; but he prayed nevertheless. His desire was still to please God. There came a time when suddenly God opened his eyes, and he received divine revelation from God about God's majesty. This revelation and experiencing of God's majesty took away his fears, and ended his inner struggles and pain. From that time on he was able to "practice the presence of God" and stay in continuous discussion with God. He says that it has to be maintained by the heart and by love rather than by understanding and speech.
Through all of this, Brother Lawrence was able to understand that you don't have to do great things in life to be satisfied. He says, "I turn my little omelette in the pan for the love of God; when it is finished, if I have nothing to do, I prostrate myself on the ground and adore my God, who gave me the grace to make it, after which I arise, more content than a king."
Brother Lawrence shares this as the answer to how to practice the presence of God: "When I first entered the monastery, I looked upon God as the beginning and the end of all my thoughts and all the feelings of my soul. During the hours designated for prayer, I meditated on the truth and character of God....Completely immersed in my understanding of God's majesty...I devote myself to prayer in all the time...During my work, I would always continue to speak to the Lord as though He were right with me, offering Him my services and thanking Him for His assistance...Thus in continuing in this practice of conversing with God throughout each day...His presence has become easy and natural to me now as it once was difficult to attain."
In thinking about what Brother Lawrence says (and did) ,I realize how important prayer should be in our lives as well. We should vow to not cut our prayer times short. I have to admit that even as a pastor, I don't always give an adequate amount of time to prayer. Although, having grown in my ability to "practice the presence of God," I do seek to be in somewhat constant communication with Him. The challenge is to pray even though we don't see or feel the benefits, and to serve God and receive God's blessing and majesty in our lives even when we do what seems to be insignificant! Tell me what you think.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Life is always a challenge. In fact, if we go into it thinking it will be easy, we will get overwhelmed. And yet, in the midst of this challenge, God walks with us, sometimes even carrying us. I have been blogging over these past several weeks on the book "The Practice of the Presence of God," by Brother Lawrence. As we come to the end of the book, there is a section on the life of Brother Lawrence. Over my next couple of blogs, I would like to highlight some aspects of Brother Lawrence's life that might help us in our own lives.
Joseph de Beaufort, a dear friend of Brother Lawrence, is the one who wrote and published this section of the book. de Beaufort talks about how God has in the past, and still does in the present, raise up those who are saints of the faith. These saints are the ones who guard up the Spirit in themselves, and seek to make them live in others.
Brother Lawrence was such a saint. Brother Lawrence revered God, and sought to be an example of how to faithfully practice the virtues of the faith. Brother Lawrence was taught to love the Lord by his parents at an early age. His parents also made sure that his education was consistent with the Gospel. Throughout his life, Brother Lawrence saw the goodness and mercy of God. Even when he was taken as a prisoner of the German troops (while He was in the armed service), and treated as a spy, and threatened to be hanged, he told them that he could not be a spy since he would never do anything that would "give him a bad conscience," and that death didn't frighten him.
After being injured, he was forced to retire and return home. He then resolved to "give himself wholly to God and to repair his past conduct...through sentiments of true devotion." He believed that God helped him to not perceive the pleasures of the world, but rather to be in love with heavenly things. He struggled with the corruption of the world and man's instability and infidelity. He decided to make a firm resolution to walk in the path of Jesus Christ.
By making this resolution, he was freed from the difficulties that the devil and the world would normally put in the path of those who wished to give their lives to the Lord. He had a strong determination to follow God, which helped to wash away the difficulties of life, as if by a miracle. It was by his meditating on the promises of the Lord that helped him to be a changed man, and give him the humility he desired to glory in the cross of Christ, and not the world.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Psalm 147:8 reminds us, "He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills." God is a God who provides His creation with blessings! Brother Lawrence highlights 4 of God's blessings in his book "The Practice of the Presence of God," p. 71-72.
"The first blessing that the soul receives from the practice of the presence of God is that its faith is livelier and more active everywhere in our lives. This is particularly true in difficult times...The soul--accustomed by this exercise to the practice of faith--can actually see and feel God by simply entering His presence..." It is difficult for us to be active in our faith if we are not regularly seeking God. And in those times where trials enter our lives, the tendency is to panic. But when we can enter into God's presence, we will be able to allow the power of God to surround us and guide us. But even more, there is a profound sense of God's presence.
Second, "the practice of the presence of God strengthens us in hope. Our hope increases as our faith penetrates God's secrets through practice of our holy exercise." God has chosen to reveal the secret of His mysteries to those who seek Him. As we gain understanding of the mysteries of God, we have great hope, because we can have a sense of what God is doing and will do.
Third, "this practice (of seeking God's presence) causes the will to rejoice at being set apart from the world, setting it aglow with the fire of holy love. This is because the soul is always with God..." How wonderful it is to know the love of God. But if we are living in the ways of the world and the thinking of the world, then we will not experience God's love, because we will be confused by the love of the world. God's love is unconditional; the world's love is conditional. They cannot exist side by side. We must choose which we will live in.
Fourth, "by practicing God's presence and continuously looking at Him, the soul familiarizes itself with Him to the extent that it passes almost its whole life in continual acts of love, praise, confidence, thanksgiving, offering, petition...." To familiarize ourselves with something means that we know it well. If we know God's presence well, we will easily be led to love like God, be confident in God, give praise and thanksgiving to go, and seek God for guidance and direction.
Let me know what you think; email@example.com
Thursday, September 27, 2007
We read on the picture to the right, these words: “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” [Marilyn vos Savant] In many ways, we might think that acquiring God's presence is the same as acquiring knowledge or wisdom. Brother Lawrence, on pages 69 & 70 of his book "The Practice of the Presence of God," leads us into a better understanding of how we can acquire God's presence in our lives.
1. The first means is a new life, received by salvation through the blood of Christ. Brother Lawrence starts in the obvious place, that we can attain nothing from God apart from the blood of Christ. First and foremost we must have faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. It all starts here!
2. The second is faithfully practicing God's presence. This must always be done ... without giving way to anxiety or problems. Jesus Himself was clear to us that the worries of this world can keep us from God's presence. Jesus says this in His description of the seeds that fell on the thorns in the "Parable of the Sower." In Matthew 13:22, Jesus says: "As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world ... choke the word, and it yields nothing." To let ourselves be influenced by God's presence, we can't allow ourselves to get caught up in our worries. We must let God's presence envelop us in a way that keeps the worries out!
3. The souls eyes must be kept on God, particularly when something is being done in the outside world. Since much time and effort are needed to perfect this practice, one should not be discouraged by failure. Romans 12:2 tells us "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Because we have the Holy Spirit within us, we can know the mind of God. And when we know the mind of God, we can rest in the knowledge that we are in God's will. That is what the practice of the presence of God does for us, it keeps us in God's will. So when we are "in" the world, we don't have to act like the world. God's presence will keep guiding our way.
Monday, September 24, 2007
One of the aspects of practicing the presence of God is learning how to give our attention to God. It is easy in this world to get distracted. There are so many choices of things to do; so many ways to be busy. In his book the "Practice of the Presence of God" (p. 67), Brother Lawrence talks about how giving our attention to God helps to bring confidence in our lives.
A friend of Brother Lawrence's said it this way: "By dwelling in the presence of God he has established such a sweet communion with the Lord that his spirit abides, without much effort, in the restful peace of God." How wonderful it would be to have a "restful peace" in our lives. This was a struggle even for the disciples. Remember how they were in the boat, in a storm, and were fearful, so much so that they had to wake Jesus up. Jesus questioned them: "Where is your faith?" It should have been in the presence of God; as should ours!
On top of this, when we give our attention to God, we are able to rejoice in the blessings of life. God is blessing us in so many ways we aren't aware of, usually because our attention is somewhere else. In the difficulty of life, it is important to note that God is at work. But even more, God is helping us to overcome all the difficulties we face. As the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:37, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."
And then Brother Lawrence concludes this writing with these words: "The presence of God is, then, the life and nourishment of the soul, which can be acquired with the grace of God." Just as the body needs food for nourishment, so does our soul. As the Bible is like the meal we need to eat, so experiencing God's presence is like the dessert; the extra special nourishment that blesses us beyond measure!
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Brother Lawrence reminds us in his book on page 65 that the only way that we can have "union with God is through salvation." We must be saved, through Jesus Christ, to be in a relationship with God, because without the cleansing we receive from Christ, our sin keeps us from truly knowing God and experiencing God.
Brother Lawrence goes on to say: "a saved soul comes to know God through a series of experiences, some of which bring it into closer union with Him and some take it further away. The soul learns which activities bring God's presence nearer." This is very true. There are experiences in our lives that cause us to be separated from God. We walk down a path God would not have us walk on, and we feel far from God; we wonder where God has gone. But then there are those experiences when we feel God's presence in a profound way.
This is what the "Practice of the Presence of God" is all about; being in the most perfect union with God in which we can be. "The most perfect union with God," Brother Lawrence says, "is the actual presence of God. Although this relationship with God is totally spiritual, it is quite dynamic..." Dynamic. Powerful. Life-changing. To get to that place where we experience God in our spirit (on a spiritual level) cannot be taught, but only experienced! It is the most profound of experiences.
Brother Lawrence also says that this perfect union with God "is an inexpressible state of the soul--gentle, peaceful, respectful, humble, loving, and very simple..." To be in the inexpressible state only comes from disengaging ourselves from the things of the world (material desire, love of money, selfish actions, etc...) and walking in the beauty of the design of God (loving one another, forgiving others, showing grace and mercy, and on and on). As we seek to follow the example set for us by Christ, we will then experience the connection with God that finds its way into our soul!
Monday, September 17, 2007
One of the aspects we should have toward God is how to adore God "in Spirit and in truth." When Jesus was talking to the Woman at the Well, He challenged her in this way, by saying in John 4:23-24,
"23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
Brother Lawrence helps to instruct us in this with three points:
1. "First, to adore God in Spirit and in truth means to adore Him as we should. Because God is a Spirit, He must be adored in Spirit. That is to say, we must worship Him with a humble, sincere love that comes from the depth and center of our soul...we must repeat it until it becomes part of our nature..." The truth is, in any aspect of life, to be good at something we must repeat it regularly. This is true of the way we love God as well. As sinful people, we love conditionally. To learn how to love God from the depths of our being will take work and practice.
2. "Secondly, to adore God in truth is to recognize Him for what He is, and ourselves for what we are. Adoring God in truth means that our heart actually sees God as infinitely perfect and worthy of our praise...." Until we see God as greater than we are, we will not feel the need to worship God. We might appreciate God at times, but it will not be adoration; it will not be devotion. If you stop and think, you will see that God has been there many times to help you, guide you, protect you. If you talk to other Christians, you will find this out all the more. If you seek to know God, you will discover that God is greater than you are, and worthy of your love, praise and devotion.
3. "Thirdly, to adore God in truth is to admit that our nature is just the opposite of His. Yet, He is willing to make us like Him..." How wonderful this is to know, that God desires to help us be more like Him. Through Jesus Christ, God can impart to us His unconditional love, His power, and His wisdom. God helps us to overcome our sinful nature, and allows us to make a difference with our lives. God is able to take the difficulties we face, and bring fruit out of them.
FOR THIS AND MORE WE SHOULD ADORE GOD WITH ALL THAT WE HAVE AND ALL THAT WE ARE! Amen.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Brother Lawrence tells us, "The most holy and necessary practice in our spiritual life is the presence of God. That means finding constant pleasure in His divine company..." (p. 59) To achieve anything good in life, we must practice. Even the most talented of people have to practice to become better. If we want to be the best we were created to be, we must practice. But the trick is that it is not practicing the behavior of being perfect, but practicing the behavior of being in the presence of God. As we are in God's presence, He will lead us to become more perfect in our being.
So how do we practice to become perfect? As Brother Lawrence says, "We must try to converse with God in little ways while we do our work...purely and simply reveal our hearts.." We can be in the same room with someone, and not converse with them. We must make the effort to be in a conversation. It is the same with God. Since God is always present with us, we need to make the effort to converse with God. And the conversation doesn't need to be deep and earth shattering. Just simple thoughts. And it doesn't have to be in a quiet sanctuary. It can happen while you are doing your work, driving your car, or walking down the street!
What will help us in this process, is as Brother Lawrence says (p. 61) "...believing that He really lives in our hearts..." When we believe this, it becomes real to us and we can know. Even more, we experience God's presence the more we live our this belief. In our coming to God in this way, we allow God to have "His good pleasure to do with each of us whatever He chooses.." This is when the joy of life really comes upon us.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
As we get to page 57 in Brother Lawrence's book "The Practice of the Presence of God," we get to some "Spiritual Maxims" from Brother Lawrence. He talks about how when we believe, hope, and love, then "all things will be possible to us in God." He talks about how these maxims can help lead us toward perfection.
Maxim 1: "We should be considerate of God in everything we do and say....We must make a firm resolution to overcome, with God's grace, all the difficulties encountered in a spiritual life."
The spiritual life is wrought with many challenges. Just living day to day for many people is a challenge. As Garfield says: "'Good morning' is a contradiction in terms." But God can give us the power, by His grace (meaning that we don't deserve the presence of God's power). to be able to live a spiritual life. The more we seek to do and say as God would have us do and say, the more able we will be to live the spiritual life.
Maxim 2: "From the very beginning of our Christian walk, we should remember who we are and that we are unworthy of the name of Christian, except what Christ has done for us..."
This is a good reminder of what the apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" We are really nothing without Jesus Christ, because we stumble over our sin so regularly. But in Christ, we can really become something!
Maxim 3: "We must believe with certainty that it is both pleasing to God and good for us to sacrifice ourselves to Him. Without this complete submission of our hearts and minds to His will He cannot work in us to make us perfect."
It is true that in life we will make sacrifices for those things that are most important to us. I will make great sacrifices to be available to coach my son's baseball team because I know it is important to him that I do this, and it is a great bonding time for us. If we do not believe that sacrificing our time to God is valuable, and if we do not believe that living for Christ is important, then we can never hope to do this in our lives.
Maxim 4: "The more we aspire to be perfect, the more dependent we are on the grace of God....The world, the flesh, and the devil wage a fierce and continuous war on our souls...Although this total dependence may sometimes go against our human nature, God takes great pleasure in it..."
We cannot even hope to be perfect without Christ, because it is Christ who makes God's power available to us. And in Christ, we have righteousness imparted to us. We have to will ourselves to become dependent on Christ, so that we can live the way God created us to live. God is pleased in this, because when we humble ourselves, God can work in and through us.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
One of the desires we have when we are under attack or in a trial is to be delivered from this trial. Most of us want to be delivered "now." But God has His own timing for our own good. As Brother Lawrence reminds us in his book, p. 53: "I cannot thank God enough for the way He has begun to deliver you from your trial. God knows very well what we need and that all He does is for our good. If we knew how much He loves us, we would always be ready to face life--both its pleasures and its troubles."
Peter challenges us in this thinking as well, as we read in the Bible from 1 Peter 1:6-8, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." While God will deliver us from our trials and burdens, God will often let trials come into our lives for a purpose. Brother Lawrence says it like this: "You know, the difficulties of life do not have to be unbearable. It is the way that we look at them--through faith or unbelief. We must be convinced that our Father is full of love for us and that He only permits trials to come our way for our own good."
The only way that we can become convinced of this, is to follow God and know God more and more. The longer we know God, and the better we know God, the more history we will have to experience God's power, love, and faithfulness in our lives.
As you go through the trials of life, trust in God, and God will deliver you in due time!